What to expect when your jennet foals

Perhaps you've decided to breed from your donkey. Donkeys are lovely pets and the foals are especially cute. The impending birth of a donkey foal elicits great excitement in its human family. Different jennets will display different symptoms. And jennets may show varying signs each time they foal. However the following are signs that the time of birth is getting near.

Jennet and foalCredit: Jennet and foal

About a month before the birth of the foal the udder will start to enlarge. It will remain enlarged until the birth. Several days before the birth the teats will also become enlarged. This increase in size will be evident right to the tip of the teat. Up to 48 hours before birth, a waxy cap will develop over the tip of the teat. During the last 48 to 24 hours, milk may drip from the teats. There is no need to milk the jennet. The pelvic ligaments will begin to soften although this will be difficult to detect in a maiden jennet or one with a winter coat. You may notice a groove on either side of the spine in the loin area near the top of the tail. The vulva becomes very soft and loose during the last few weeks and will elongate as birth approaches. Once the lips of the vulva swell and become flush with the hindquarters, birth is generally only hours away.

Donkey foalCredit: Donkey foal

The jennet will drive away others and look to be on her own. She will become restless, appear thinner and may start pacing her stall. Just before the foal is born, the tail will be lifted away from the body and perhaps kinked to the side. Small, frequent amounts of soft manure or urine may be passed.

The jennet will lie down and get up repeatedly. When the cervix is fully dilated, the water bag appears and ruptures, lubricating the passageway for the foal. Hard straining should result in the appearance of the forefeet. The nose should appear resting on the front legs. Within 15 to 30 minutes, the birth should be complete.

If, after twenty minutes of hard straining, there is no appearance of the foal or no nose appearing on the front legs or only one foot showing, call a veterinarian. Expert assistance is required if the foal is not presenting in a normal manner.

The foal may move its head breaking the membrane which surrounds it. Tear open the membrane if necessary and clear the nostrils of mucous. Do not cut the navel cord. This will break naturally when the jennet gets up. She will lick her foal dry. This is an important part of the process especially with a first foal as it stimulates the maternal instinct and prevents the foal from getting chilled. The afterbirth (placenta) is usually expelled within thirty minutes. If not expelled within 6 to 8 hours, call your veterinarian.

Once the umbilical cord has broken, you can dab the navel stump with a 5% iodine solution. This will prevent infection. Ensure that the foal stands and suckles. The first milk or colostrum is rich in antibodies and vital to the foal's health. The meconium or first manure may be passed as the foal struggles to stand. If there is no sign of meconium within 12 to 24 hours or if the foal is straining, again call the vet.

Most donkey births occur without any problems but it is always best to be prepared. Donkey foals are delightful and it will be hard to judge who is most proud – you or your donkey mum.